The five members of Radiohead first met at a private boys school in Abingdon, a small, picturesque town on the outskirts of Oxford. Thom Yorke (b. 7 October 1968, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, England; vocals/guitar) had been given his first instrument, a Spanish guitar, at the age of eight by his mother. He formed his first band two years later, then joined an existing school punk band, TNT. Singing for the first time, he realized he would require more sympathetic band members and formed what would become Radiohead with school friends Ed O'Brien (b. 15 April 1968, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; guitar), 'who looked cool', and Colin Greenwood (b. 26 June 1969, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; bass) 'because he was in my year and we always ended up at the same parties'. They shared an interest in Joy Division and the Smiths and Greenwood earned Yorke's sympathy for joining TNT after him. Mild-mannered drummer Phil Selway (b. 23 May 1967, Hemmingford Grey, England; drums) bound the new band, titled On A Friday, together. The addition of Colin's brother and jazz fanatic, Jonny Greenwood (b. 5 November 1971, Oxford, Oxfordshire, England; guitar/keyboards) completed the line-up, originally on harmonica, after he pestered his elder brother and friends continually to let him join.
In 1987, a week after his first rehearsal with the band, On A Friday played their debut gig at the now defunct Jericho Tavern in Oxford. With a musical canon resembling a youthful Talking Heads, they added two saxophone-playing sisters to fill out the line-up. However, the band were then put on hold while the members pursued their academic careers, in an effort to appease already frantic parents (Jonny finished his schooling). Colin became entertainments officer at Peterhouse College, Cambridge University, and helped get his friends together for occasional gigs there. At Exeter University, Yorke played guitar in a techno band, Flickernoise, while Selway drummed for various theatrical productions ( "Blood Brothers", "Return To The Forbidden Planet" ) while studying at Liverpool Polytechnic. The band finally regrouped in Oxford in the summer of 1991, but without the brass section. They recorded two demos and gained a deal with EMI Records before changing their name to Radiohead (after a Talking Heads song). Their first commercial broadcast followed when 'Prove Yourself', from the "Drill" EP, was voted Gary Davies' 'Happening Track Of The Week' on BBC Radio 1.
Two minor hit singles were followed by 'Creep', "the" alternative rock song of 1993, with a self-loathing lyric ('I'm a creep, I'm a weirdo, I don't belong here') stretched over driven guitars that at one point simply explode. Ignored when it was first released in September 1992, its re-release sparked enormous interest as the band toured with Kingmaker and James. Taking the band into the UK Top 10 and the US Top 40, it also announced a Top 30 debut album, "Pablo Honey". Unlike other celebrated UK indie hopefuls such as Suede, Radiohead also translated well to international tastes, from the USA to Egypt. Two years of promotional activity followed, before the release of "The Bends" in March 1995. With the pressure on following the plaudits, the recording process was not easy. With hardly a note recorded over two months, producer John Leckie ordered all bar Yorke out of the studio and told the singer to 'just fucking play it'. The songs came, and he and the rest of the band relocated to Abbey Road Studios to finish off the album in a mere three weeks.
"The Bends" did not disappoint, with a vibrant mood range encouraging Yorke's prosaic yet affecting lyrics: 'When your insides fall to pieces, You just sit there wishing you could still make love'. Notable tracks included the hypnotic 'High And Dry' and 'Fake Plastic Trees', and the UK Top 5 single 'Street Spirit (Fade Out)'. By the end of 1995 "The Bends" had been universally acclaimed, enough to win them a BRIT Awards nomination as the best band of the year. Two years later, they unveiled the follow-up, "OK Computer", which received the most spectacular reviews of any rock album in recent memory, and won the band a Grammy Award in 1998 for Best Alternative Rock Performance.
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